It’s no secret that optometry has evolved over the years. What started as a profession that focused on vision care and dispensing eyeglasses, has developed into a profession that provided medical eye care and the relationship with ophthalmologists has expanded into more of a partnership as opposed to a technician/expert relationship.
What lead to this was lobbying by leaders in the optometric profession. The lobbying results in law changes which allowed OD’s to prescribe topical ocular medications. Another factor in the evolution of optometry was the development of optometric sub-specialties, such as low vision. In addition, optometrists now manage ocular disease and perform minor surgical procedures.
Yet, optometry still has an identity crisis. Licensure is not the same state by state, which means an optometrist can perform a surgery in one state but can’t do the same surgery in another state. So, how can optometrists position themselves as leaders in eye health?
Integrated eye care is the way to demonstrate leadership and provide optimal eye care. Optometrists have developed long term relationships with patients and they can use that relationship to both their and their patients’ advantage. With the advent of multi-doctor practices and vertically-integrated practices, this model provides the best of both worlds. It has the optometrist as the care coordinator and the ophthalmologist provides secondary eye care. The patient benefits from seamless eye care.
As Tracy Swartz, O.D., M.S.; Center Director of Vision America in Huntsville, Alabama put it:
“The advantage of our model is the full scope of practice that is enjoyed by both optometry and ophthalmology, which is encouraged by consistent continuing education and case consultation. Optometrists who take ownership of the medical practice model fully support it, and the surgeons do well within their area of specialty without the hassle of primary care.”
Of course, you can’t forget that most OD’s generate 75 percent of their income from the optical part of their practice. No one wants to give up something so lucrative! And you don’t have to, since it is possible to hold on the optical portion while simultaneously growing the medical part of the practice. In the end it is about meeting the needs of patients, whether they are optical or medical in nature.
Meeting the vision needs of patients is at the heart of the optometric practice. Good vision is a part of good health. Through integrating both medical and optical aspects of your practice, the patient achieves good health and you get to be a part of the continuum of care. In the end, both the patient and the optometrist win.